Draw Something 2 (iOS) review

IMG_2484Draw Something 2 is a new release from Zynga, currently available as both free and paid downloads for iOS and coming soon to Android. The game is featured in the New & Noteworthy section of the App Store front page, but is not an Editor’s Choice app.

OMGPOP’s Draw Something became something of a phenomenon when it was originally released, capturing the public’s imagination with its simple asynchronous gameplay and wide variety of words to guess. The game’s immense success, of course, led Zynga to acquire OMGPOP for an astonishing $180 million, after which the game gradually started to decline in popularity. A number of reasons were cited for this — firstly, people were simply getting bored with it; secondly, Zynga’s involvement had led the game to become very obviously “sponsored,” with a variety of brand names starting to show their faces in the word lists; thirdly, there were players out there who simply disliked Zynga and no longer wanted to support the game now it wasn’t the work of a plucky independent developer.

The original Draw Something’s gameplay had one big flaw in terms of gameplay: it didn’t really have a “point.” It wasn’t competitive at all, unlike many other asynchronous mobile games; there was no way to “win” or “lose” — all you could do was try and get as long a streak of correct guesses as possible when playing with a friend. There was no real reward for getting a long streak, however, just as there was no punishment for breaking one. This lack of tension and competition doubtless also played a role in the game’s gradual decline.

drawsomething2

Enter Draw Something 2, then, which promises to shake up the formula and get people interested in sketching things for their friends once again. It certainly does add a lot to the original app’s formula, but not everything is a welcome addition; the new package is something of a disorganized mess that doesn’t appear to really know whether it wants to be a game or a mobile-social network.

Draw Something 2′s core gameplay is almost identical to its predecessor. Pairs of players take it in turns to pick one of three words or short phrases (now selectable from various themed “packs” rather than just three randomly-chosen words) and then draw a picture to represent that word or phrase. The other player then gets to see the drawing take shape, and must guess what the word or phrase is using the provided letters. A “hint” facility allows players to use the in-game “stars” currency to solve individual letters for them, but each time they do this for a single guess, the cost increases. Once a player has either successfully guessed the word or passed, play swaps around and the other player gets a chance at drawing. The main distinction between Draw Something 2 and its predecessor is the far larger variety of drawing tools available, all of which cost one of the two in-game currencies to purchase. Now players can draw in pencil, highlighter, pattern pen (which allows drawing with textures), pixel pen (which draws with large pixels suitable for “retro” artwork) or crayon, and use a wide variety of colors. As with the previous game, it is possible to earn a lot of these new tools simply by playing the game, but it is a painfully slow process to do so.

Had this been all Zynga had done with Draw Something 2, it would have been a competent, if rather unimaginative sequel — and it would still suffer from the feeling that there wasn’t really a “point” to it.

This is not, however, all that Zynga has done with Draw Something 2.

Instead, aside from the main asynchronous gameplay, there’s also a full mobile-social network attached to the game. Any images that a player draws are added to their personal “gallery” — though this feature may be turned off if desired — and players may follow each other, “like” each other’s drawings and leave comments on them. There’s a social feed that players can browse, completely separate from the “game” part of the app, and while it’s interesting and humbling to see the level of talent on display by certain members of the community, the built-in social network just feels rather out of place, overcomplicating what was once a simple app that players of all ages could use to enjoy a straightforward, non-competitive form of Pictionary. The new interface is busy and cluttered because of this new component, which may put many people — particularly those who are less “social savvy” — off playing the game. That said, there’s nothing stopping them playing the original game if it does bother them, and indeed many App Store reviewers have noted that after trying Draw Something 2 they intend to go back to the first game. Those who spent money on the original game are particularly perturbed that none of their purchases carry over to the new game — they must start again unlocking all the tools and colors from scratch.

Here’s the thing: neither the game nor the social component of Draw Something 2 is bad at all — though it would have been nice to see the game part evolve just a little bit from the original — but both seem to clash with one another and pull the app in two opposite directions. Is it an art-centric mobile-social network where users can show off their creations to others in an attempt to attract likes and comments? Yes, but that functionality is crippled by the fact you have to play the game a huge amount or make expensive in-app purchases to afford all the drawing tools. Is it a non-threatening, simple, cooperative take on Pictionary that anyone can potentially enjoy? Yes, but that functionality is constantly intruded upon by prompts to share all your images with others, when perhaps all you want to do is just play a game. To Draw Something 2′s credit, it does offer a “Restricted Mode” option that disables all the social functionality — ideal for those allowing young children to play — but that doesn’t really take away from the unfocused feel that this sequel has.

Ultimately, then, Draw Something 2 is an interesting evolution of the original’s formula, but given the original’s decline into irrelevance and the overly-complicated feel that the addition of the mobile-social network brings to the new app as a whole, it remains to be seen whether it will capture the public’s imagination in the same way as its predecessor.

Draw Something 2′s free version is currently ranked at No. 3 in Top Free Apps, No. 2 in Top Free Games and No. 340 in Top Grossing Apps at the time of writing. Its paid incarnation, which offers some of the tools for “free,” is currently ranked at No. 17 in Top Paid Apps, No. 76 in Top Grossing Apps, No. 13 in Top Paid Games and No. 64 in Top Grossing Games. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social games and developers.

Wait

Certainly an evolution from its predecessor — though whether the community will welcome the big changes to the app in the long term remains to be seen.

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